Sunday, November 18, 2012

Twi-Curious Part Deux


I do not own the above image. Copyright Summit Entertainment. All rights reserved. For entertainment purposes only.

                Good news, everyone!  Bella Swan (Stewart) is not dead.  Bad news: she is not exactly alive either.  The transfusion during the birth worked and Bella is now a vampire & a mother. So she, Edward (Pattinson) and daughter Renesmee can go away and we all can have happy lives right?  Wrong!  A serious misunderstanding leads the Volturi believe Renesmee was originally a human, which breaks vampire law, and the Cullens must be destroyed.  But they won’t go down easily.
                And therein lies the problem with the series: the movie does not get to the end credits soon enough.  To paraphrase the late Johnny Carson, The Twilight Saga is about five hours of sparkling entertainment, spread out over ten hours of movies.  But Breaking Dawn Part Deux may be the biggest culprit.  About 35 minutes is wasted traveling to all points of the globe to find witnesses to the mutant beauty of Renesmee, only to not really use it.  Another 35 minutes is used to show just how happy Bella is to be a vampire now, even though KStew has major issues trying to express any emotion at all.
                For all intents & purposes, The Twilight Saga has featured a bunch of no names and bad actors.  No actor is worse than Taylor Lautner.  I have never seen a worse actor get top billing in a movie.  Never.  I don’t hate Lautner.  I just feel he should find another profession.
But he shouldn’t exit stage right alone.  After Part Deux, I have officially moved into the “Kristen Stewart is a terrible actress” camp.  Anytime she should have a clear emotion, she looks conflicted or like she is having a vicious bowel movement.  Robert Pattinson, on the other hand, needs to hire an acting coach and disappear for about a year.  He has potential, not a lot but way, way more than the other two.
                Most of the rest of the cast are a bunch of nobodies who I suspect won’t get more than two lines in anything for the rest of their careers.  If someone told me the only people who would hire Lee Pace are the folks involved with this, I’d say Hollywood is a really sad place.  Dakota Fanning was in four of these and did one thing, which I will get to in a moment.  But the star of Part Deux is Michael Sheen.  I can’t remember an actor having this much fun on screen.  One of his line readings got one of the ten biggest laughs I have ever heard in a movie theatre.  It is almost as if Sheen said to himself, “Boy, everyone here looks like they at a funeral.  Let’s see if I can cheer them up.”
                For as much money that was spent on this movie, I see the minimum went into the visuals.  First, there’s a three & a half minute opening credit sequence that would feel out of place in a Pacific Northwest nature documentary.  Second, the effects during the action scenes look like they were done by the best visual effects team of 1997.  But worst of all, director Bill Condon made the decision to computerize Renesmee’s face.  With effects that would work in a horror movie.  The effects are at least $10-12 million under budget.
                There is a lot of buzz about what happens at the end.  I won’t spoil it for you.  But while what occurs is the best 15-20 minutes in the series, what happens immediately after is the most infuriating.  When the sequence is over, we realize some things.  First, that the crew, especially Condon & screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, truly believes that the audience is extremely stupid.  Stupid enough to think that just because about twenty minutes of this movie is entertaining, in extremely campy fashion by the way, that we will forget the other 100 awful minutes and call the movie “good”.
But second, and most important, that writer Rosenberg is entirely capable of writing something of substance.  The spoiler sequence is a deviation from the book but then cops out and returns to the boring, simple book ending, still leaving several unanswered subplot questions.  If “author” Stephenie Meyer allowed Rosenberg to change what she changed at the end of Part Deux, I would think that asking Meyer to change or straight up cut scenes that only serve to satisfy fans.  Or is that what Rosenberg is, a fan first & screenwriter second.  I have no issue with fans working on movies.  But understand that not everyone watching will have read the books let alone be a fanatic.  Take The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Peter Jackson is a fan.  But Jackson realized that certain things needed cut in order for the movies to work and appeal to all audiences.  To this day, 12 years after filming ended, Jackson still gets it for removing Tom Bombadil from the story, with Jackson simply saying that Tom didn’t add anything to the main adventure.  There are so many moments in Breaking Dawn Part Deux: Electric Boogaloo that serve little purpose or are virtual copies of previous scenes.  Minutes of all our lives could have been saved but someone in the editing room saying, “Does Jacob need to take his shirt off three times in four minutes?”
                Our moviegoing experience was something else.  We showed up 45 minutes before the show to get seats to observe the crowd.  Immediately, a group of 6 girls sits to our immediate right.  They talked right through the commercials & trailers and even the beginning of the movie before we quieted them.  Throughout the movie, people would take their leisurely time walking out for whatever reason.  One teenage girl did it thrice.  At the end of the movie, no one, not even the six girls beside us, talked about the movie.  Instead, they talked about tomorrow or Sunday or next weekend.  Am I shocked?  A little.  I mean, why would you wait in line 45 minutes before to see the “movie event of the season”?  This leads me to believe that many, at least at my showing, that it is less about seeing the movie and more being seen at the movie.  Worst of all, these people are slobs.  The Wreck-It Ralph screening we went to, full of 6 year olds, needed a lighter cleaning crew.
                Breaking Dawn Part Two is an 85 minute movie with a plot contrivance that adds at least thirty.  Hopefully, Bill Condon gets to make whatever movie his Oscar winning self wants.  Just about everyone else?  I could care less about them.  Words cannot describe just how pissed the last 25 minutes made me when all was said & done.  And with all of these things combined, I fear the future for movies.  Breaking Dawn Part Deux, coupled with its four predecessors, is a deep tear on the painting that is the history of motion pictures.  I hope that we can all one day, sooner rather than later, look back & laugh.  Laugh at ourselves for being duped into watching these.  These hideous, amateur excuses for movies.

*1/2

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Twi-Curious


I do not own the above image. Copyright Little, Brown and Company.  For entertainment purposes only.

Before the evisceration, how about I tell a little tale from school.  My final semester in college was the fall of 2008.  After weeks of job searching and door knocking & phone banking for then President-elect Barack Obama, I went back to old reliable for some much needed R&R: a dark, not-so-crowded movie theatre.  It was the weekend before Thanksgiving and the only major release was the film adaptation of a teen book series that I had heard rumblings about.  I was all set to hightail it across town for the 4:15ish showing when something funny happened: mother nature decided to drop about 3 inches of snow in about 90 minutes before & during my last class for the day.  Needless to say, I just got out of Dodge and thought nothing of going again.
That is until this week.  You’d think someone somewhere was trying to tell me something about Twilight.  But no, I used my Netflix subscription and around nine hours of my time (plus about three of my loving yet befuddled wife’s) to catch up for Friday.  I wanted to stop after two hours or four or six plus.  But I pushed myself with as much leverage you need to watch a movie.  And well, I need to work on my self-control…

TWILIGHT
                To say the premise is basic is an insult to Sparknotes™ everywhere.  A human girl (Bella) falls for a male vampire (Edward).  And a conflict occurs when another vampire clan doesn’t like the idea.  The movie is two hours of muted teen angst set against the backdrop of a small Washington town that looks rather quaint and peaceful until the forced conflict arrives.  Director Catherine Hardwicke tries her best to make the movie look like professionals were on set.  One problem: the foreground (acting) and background (story & screenplay) had to be shown.  I remember Kristen Stewart as the worst element of the best movie of 2007 (Into the Wild).  Stewart has potential but it appears she has no control of her face.  Her reactions are all wrong and her speech is too damn quiet.  Robert Pattinson, best remembered as Cedric Diggory in The Goblet of Fire, isn’t that much better.  Pattinson has plenty of trouble with his voice and mannerisms as well.  But the major failing is screenplay.  Screenwriter Melissa Rosenburg appears to write the screenplays as if leaving one intricate detail or one line of precious, bland dialogue would offend one of the Twi-Hards.  But when you consider the source material, Stephenie Meyer’s technical-deficient novel, you can’t wholly blame the screenwriter.  There is a laughable scene involving a backyard baseball game that needs to be seen to be believed.  And the conflict, which would rear its ugly head later on in the series, ends in a clich├ęd, anti-climatic fashion.
*

NEW MOON
                Production here started with a suspicious move in canning Hardwicke and moving on with Chris Weitz, whose 2002 film About a Boy remains his highlight.  New Moon, focusing on Bella’s “inner” struggles with her love of Edward and her growing relationship with a Native American turned hunky werewolf Jacob.  Until someone can prove to me that director Weitz said otherwise, he told the actors to not disturb the townspeople by whispering or grunting every line of dialogue.  I had to turn the volume to eleven to hear the insufferable 130 minutes of insufficient verbiage.  I thought Stewart & Pattinson were bad but Taylor Lautner may have negative acting ability.  Lautner has some vocal ability but only has two faces, cheerful & emo and neither one are particularly convincing.  Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning waste their time and talent as a sort of vampire council.
The overall movie is almost laughably bad but the last scene in particular is atrocious.  After returning from Italy, Edward & Bella find Jacob in one of the numerous wooded areas around Forks.  It is clear that Stewart & Pattinson are on a soundstage due to the poor green-screen effects.  But Lautner?  Towards the end of the scene, you can see VISABLE CARBON DIOXIDE AS HE EXHALES.  Seriously, did you really need to have your second male lead stand shirtless in the cold British Columbia air while the “stars” get luxury?
ZERO STARS


ECLIPSE
                With Bella back in Edward’s arms and the audience’s lunches back in their laps, the last of the villainous vampire trio has returned and she brought company in the form of “newborns” or newly bitten vampires.  Meanwhile, Bella is deemed unsafe with the Cullens so Jacob and the werewolf tribe are there to help.  The movie is shockingly fascinating for the 45 minutes or so it focuses on the creation of the vampire army.  People on screen acting, even if it is overacting, is invigorating compared to the blandness of the Cullens and the whatever-the-director-thinks-that-is of Jacob & his clan.  Director David Slade, who I actually had to look up since I never heard of him before, does his best but the screenplay by Rosenberg is way, way too heavy on the love triangle.  The fight at the end followed by the scene with the Volturi along with the triangle are extra depressing alongside the good stuff.  The best of the four but still terrible.
*1/2

BREAKING DAWN: PART ONE
                Edward & Bella were sitting near a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.  First, came “love”.  Now comes marriage.  And then Bella almost dying from carrying a mutant vampire-human creature to term.  Jacob and the pack, not pleased.  The Volturi, apparently less pleased.  Director Bill Condon, who should have been given a shot at the script since he is an Oscar winning screenwriter, tries his best to send the movie into camp territory, especially towards the end.  One problem: no one else, from KStew to RPatz to TLaut to the those “writers”, got the memo.  The honeymoon lasts about 45 minutes but only 10 minutes of events occur.  And that birth and that Jacob imprinting scene left me speechless.  Two hours for a wedding, a honeymoon and a baby should be way, way more exciting.
*
                The popularity is mystifying.  So mystifying that I will be at The Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills Cinemark at 8:45 Friday night to witness the finale.  To witness the Twi-Hards lose it one last time over Edward & Jacob.  To witness the end of the long international nightmare.  And to wallow in the misery of others.  Oh how torturous and wondrous that night will be.